Jazzpunk mostly leaves you to explore, so its sole flashing arrow proves too conspicuous to ignore. It leads to a wedding cake, which flips open to reveal a monitor display, transporting you to one of Jazzpunk’s best distractions. Wedding Qake is a multiplayer arena shooter that lives up to its name: champagne bottles become shotguns and wedding cakes are miniguns, while a glass of fizz brings a cry of “Toast!” and a brief speed boost. The bots – dressed as brides, grooms and vicars – make for tough opposition. You’ll want to play again, and you can straight from the menu. reused, too, including the goons in beige raincoats who block your path as you escape from a downtown sushi restaurant. As you clear the way with melee strikes, they emit the sound of pins being knocked down by a bowling ball. One of the last you’ll face is a pin wearing a hat; another shouts “Bowling joke” as you approach; another begs for mercy. (“Please don’t hurt me,” he implores. “I’m a sensitive man.”) A level set at a luxury beachfront resort, meanwhile, is dotted with dumb-asthey-come slacker guys and valley girls, while several male tourists ape Johnny Depp’s turn in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas – hat, Hawaiian shirt, and a cigarette holder dangling from each mouthless face.
These familiar sights bring consistency to a varied world, which spans the town plaza, seedy downtown and seaside resort as well as a penthouse, a neonflecked city and a network of skyscraper rooftops. There are plenty of surprises along the way, some of which take you out of the gameworld entirely (see ‘Shotgun wedding’). Changes of scenery help Necrophone ensure its simple set of mechanics – there’s a single action button, a jump you’ll rarely need, and a button that cycles through your inventory – doesn’t grow stale. Items are automatically, invisibly discarded the second they’ve finished serving a purpose, a smart decision from a developer aware there’s nothing so pace-breaking as rummaging through a busy inventory. Thankfully, this is much more than a simple exercise in clicking through NPC dialogue trees and chuckling at the results. Necrophone knows it’s making a game, and ensures that it frequently sends up its host medium in the midst of all the sight gags and tech puns, bending its own mechanical rules to do so. There are nods to Wave Race, Virtual Boy, Duck Hunt and more besides, while Street Fighter II’s influence is felt in a highly one-sided firstperson punch-up and a standout section in which you guide the dotted line of Agent Polyblank’s voyage across a matinee-movie world map. Late on, Jazzpunk perhaps leans on game parodies a little too heavily, but you won’t mind at all. By this point, your heart has long since been won.
Jazzpunk’s greatest success, though, is how its disparate parts all fit together. Its inspirations are, after all, much more finely targeted. Airplane! sends up the disaster flick and Hot Shots! spoofs the war movie, while Austin Powers goes even further, narrowing its sights to a single series. Gaming, however, is a far broader church, and it’s some achievement that Necrophone’s game spans so many locations, styles, genres and eras with barely a single gag failing to hit the mark. Games are so rarely funny by design, but Jazzpunk is much more than a funny videogame. It’s a comedy, and one that wouldn’t be possible – or anywhere near as powerful – in any other medium.